11/17/2020, 16.28
PAKISTAN
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Quality education to counter intolerance and discrimination against religious minorities

by Shafique Khokhar

Educational experts, politicians and human rights activists vetted school textbooks, curricula and educational policy, dominated by stereotypes and wrong views of religious minorities, often described in a derogatory way or not named at all. In violation of the Pakistani constitution, some students are forced to learn a religion other their own. A collection of essays titled “Quality Education vs Fanatic Literacy” is presented.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Pakistan’s religious minorities face intolerance, religious discrimination, exclusion, and forced indoctrination in the country’s schools instead of acceptance, tolerance, understanding, and togetherness.

In view of this situation, Peter Jacob, director of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), edited a book titled Quality Education vs Fanatic Literacy, which was published yesterday.

The collection of essays provides an accurate analysis of school texts, curricula and educational policy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh and the Federal Directorate of Education in Pakistan. It points to the potential for inclusiveness that education carries.

The publication coincides with the Federal Ministry of Education’s plan for a single national curriculum for elementary, middle and high school.

The book’s launch drew educational experts and human rights activists, Christians and Muslims, some of whom contributed some of its essays.

Baela Raza Jamil, from Idara Taleem-o-Agahi (Centre for Study and Awareness), stressed that school textbooks are the most powerful tool for instilling positive attitudes among students, building an inclusive society and achieving quality education.

She expressed doubts about teaching (Islamic) religion in schools because it creates tensions and leads to the exclusion of minority groups.

Abdul Hameed Nayyar, educator and scholar, slams schools for violating Article 22 (1) of the Pakistani constitution, which reads, “No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own.”

He explained that the rights of religious minorities are always violated and asks that non-religious subjects not contain religious lessons.

Riaz Ahmed Shaikh, who is dean of the Department of Social Sciences and Education at Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST), reiterated the need to introduce sensitivity, acceptance and tolerance towards other religions in school textbooks.

He pointed out that stereotypes and erroneous assessments of religious minorities are commonplace in the textbooks used in both public and private schools, adding that minorities are often described in a derogatory manner or not at all.

In his analysis of school textbooks, Anjum James Paul explained that such works are often the first, and sometimes the only sources of reading and learning for students.

Their one-sided portrayals of historical events, biases, prejudices, stereotypes can influence students. Because of this, the government must make sure that new curricula and school textbooks move towards religious inclusion and the acceptance of diversity.

Peter Jacob expressed appreciation for all the contributions, and called on federal educational authorities to take into consideration the studies and analyses presented in the book.

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